Bought the bag, got the T-shirt, now eat the Gucci cake
So finally, at the age of 30, I get my first taste of Chanel and Gucci. As a journalist, it’s a sure sign that I’ve arrived ... at the cafe/dining section of these designer fashion labels’ flagship stores in Ginza, that is.
Tokyo lays claim to several of the world’s first, or only, dining establishments of luxury brands such as Chanel, Gucci and Bulgari, reflecting both the uniqueness and sophistication of the Japanese consumer who lives to breathe -- and eat -- designer labels.
A piece of designer brands we can all afford
Thanks to the insatiable hunger of Tokyo’s fashionistas for the finest things in life, both regulars to these boutiques -- and your regular boutique window shoppers -- can enjoy the ambiance and culinary creations carefully curated to embody the essence of these hallowed brands, starting from a mere ¥500 per piece of edible monogram (for say, a square of Gucci-logo-monogrammed chocolate or a Chanel-inspired macaroon).
Indeed, the Gucci Café (tel. +81 (0) 3 5469 6611) -- on the fourth floor of the world’s only Gucci building -- will combine food with fashion and a special limited edition creation called “Gucci 8,” starting from October 8, in conjunction with a Japan-exclusive jewelry collection by the same name incorporating all eight Gucci logos that have been used in the past.
The special menu is in celebration of the final year of its eighth decade of fashion trendsetting as Gucci turns 90 next year.
For ¥1,600, or ¥2,000 for a dessert set including a coffee, anyone can join in the celebration with the sweet treat made out of apricot-infused chocolate mousse, encasing an Earl Grey tea mousse center filling on a crunchy chocolate sable base, covered in dark cocoa glazing and topped with a Gucci-logo chocolate, accompanied with vanilla gelato and sliced apricots. Guccilicious.
Businessmen and tea ladies
Another item featuring the Gucci logo is the Gucci tiramisu, which departs from the usual meringue and cream mix, instead opting for egg yolks and mascarpone to give the tiramisu a pudding-like texture, rich while not being overly sweet or cloying, and sublimely matched with the alcoholic fragrance of a Sambuca-drenched base.
Personally, I’d rate the net happiness from this tiramisu way higher than laying hands on any branded bag (though that could be the Sambuca speaking).
There’s also a set lunch from ¥3,200 for a main dish and but the café is obviously popular for its desserts, both amongst businessmen in dark suits and ladies who tea straight after lunch.
Beige Alain Ducasse Tokyo (tel. +81 (0) 3 5159 5500), which combines fine dining with high fashion, is aptly located on the top floor of the 10-story Chanel Ginza Building.
Chanel leads the way
The collaboration between French chef Alain Ducasse -- who has garnered 19 Michelin stars throughout his career -- and the French fashion label was “the first of its kind in the luxury industry,” according to Chanel, when it launched in December 2004.
Armed with ¥5,000, one can break the glass window browsing barrier and stride into the boutique to indulge one’s palate in a three-course set lunch at Beige, so named after Chanel’s famous color theme. Infusing the Chanel design philosophy, the dishes are simple yet elegant -- and of course, oishii.
In the pursuit of perfection and haute cuisine, executive chef Kei Kojima -- who has worked with Alain Ducasse for over a decade -- even makes a point to personally select vegetables from Kamakura, for example. For the best veal, milk-fed veal is sourced from Canada.
Excellent as the main dishes are, the highlight must be the after-meal chocolate -- freshly made daily and formed in the shape of actual Chanel buttons. It seems almost blasphemous to pop one in your mouth.
Up on the roof
To fully maximize the culinary Chanel experience, request to have your coffee and chocolate at the Le Jardin de Tweed rooftop terrace café, open through autumn till the end of November.
There, one can bask in the reflections of a Chanel-monogrammed wall while sipping a champagne and macaroon set for ¥2,000. This ‘Great Wall of Chanel’ is exclusively visible from the terrace, hidden from the prying eyes of window shoppers.
Along the leafy Omotesando boulevard is Bulgari’s only café and designer chocolate shop in the world, Il Café (tel. +81 (0) 3 6362 0500) and Il Cioccolato respectively.
In harmony with the Bulgari boutique dedicated to jewelry, watches and accessories, Bulgari chocolates -- freshly crafted daily by hand -- are displayed like glistening jewels on a black resin and glass counter and presented in an elegant black and gold box fit for a diamond.
A pearl of a dessert
Alternatively, for ¥2,300 one can dine on an elegant Bulgari Tea Box set on the terrace. The refined Bulgari ‘bento’-like box consists of a mini Panini, mini hamburger with Matsuzaka beef, two desserts and coffee or tea.
And even if you can’t have breakfast at Tiffany’s, you can have tea at Mikimoto (tel +81 (0) 3 3562 3134), Japan’s famed pearl purveyor. At the lounge on the third floor of the Ginza 2 store, you can order your pearl and eat it, for ¥1,500.
The patisserie chef created a dessert called “Pearl” in the image of Mikimoto’s perfect cultured pearl. The pearly white blancmange embodies the unique texture of pearl tapioca, and the slightly tart sweetness of passion fruit balances well the Normandy fromage blanc sauce for a, shall we say, rounded taste.
The finishing touch is a compote of aloe vera and wolfberry dressed around the blancmange like a necklace.
Food and skincare go hand in hand
Even French body and skincare beauty products maker L’Occitane (tel. +81 (0) 3 5428 1563) chose Tokyo, specifically the Shibuya crossing, to launch its first café in mid-2008.
For creamy goodness both inside and out, the Crème brulee de L’Occitane (¥800) is the chart topper, together with the Thé au lait glace L’Occitane (bergamot tea topped with fresh cream and milk) for ¥950.
So eat, drink and be merry for luxury labels at prices one can stomach!